Three-fifths of schools are financially worse off now than they were when the recession began, according to a survey by the Irish Primary Principals’ Network (IPPN).
The schools have cited a drop in voluntary contributions and the Government funding cuts to cover schools running costs.
The survey was conducted ahead of the three-day IPPN annual conference of more than 1,100 primary school leaders tomorrow in Citywest Convention Centre, Dublin.
Of the 682 school principals who responded to the IPPN survey, just 9% said that their school’s financial position had improved since 2008 while 31% reported that their budgets remained the same.
However, 60% of schools said their financial position was worse now than it was three years ago.
Almost a quarter of principals surveyed said parents should be asked for a contribution while 18% said teachers should be asked to cut back on learning resources to offset the drop in schools’ budgets.
Just over 8% of respondents said outstanding invoices should be sent to the school’s patron for payment.
Seán Cottrell, IPPN Director, said steep inflation in school running costs, parents’ inability to contribute due to unemployment and pay cuts, and the Government’s cuts to the capitation budget means many schools are slipping deeper into debt.
Mr Cottrell said: "The recession has brought about a perfect storm of declining voluntary contributions and Government funding, and rising utility and supplies costs, leaving many schools deep in debt.
"The Government needs to rethink its decision to cut capitation funding and allow boards of management to use professional services, including financial expertise, to help them to manage their budgets in an era of declining resources."
He said small schools are now being coerced into amalgamations, partly because the Department considers them too small to be financially viable.
He said: "But if it was not for our parents, who provide about one-third of the running costs of primary schools, the Department would have 3,300 financially unviable schools."
IPPN President Gerry Murphy said the Government would help schools to cover running costs by exempting schools, which are not-for-profit organisations, from paying VAT.
Mr Murphy said: "The measure would save schools at least €12,000, with even greater savings for larger schools."